Commentary

Who's On First? More Perspectives On PTV's Evolving Dynamics

Sometimes it seems that if there’s one thing that everyone involved in programmatic television can agree on, it’s a lack of consensus.

If that sounds a bit Yogi Berra-ish, well, it’s that time of year.

Actually, there does seem to be fairly broad consensus about the presumably substantial buy-side benefits to be realized by leveraging advanced audience data for targeting and automating the buying process in the television arena. (Although there are somewhat more mixed perspectives on the benefits from the sell side.)  

And to my original point, there’s general acknowledgement that at this stage of PTV — despite good intentions and the impressive, ongoing work being done to get to the promised land — there’s still a lot of confusion, along with differing views on how to proceed, jockeying for competitive advantage, and what are generally termed “lack of transparency” issues.

Frank talk about the current limitations and expected benefits of PTV was on tap this week during the second in a series of BIA Kelsey webinars on the topic.

Asked by moderator Mitch Oscar, U.S. International Media’s programmatic TV strategist, why an agency includes programmatic TV strategies in client campaigns today, Ryan McArthur, EVP at Quantum 11, said his agency looks “to take advantage of opportunities that won’t necessarily be available in the [PTV] space as it matures.”

McArthur said those include “using online data and taking it offline and vice versa, data-driven audience planning, and more efficient targeting and in-flight optimizations,” which are “resulting in better business outcomes.” Longer term, “we’re excited about the opportunity to execute integrated cross-platform campaigns, using offline and online in both directions,” he added.

Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen, said that having moved aggressively to buy all kinds of other media inventory programmatically, his agency was “excited about the promise of all media moving to a programmatic platform,” being able to use data in buying TV, and using one DSP to manage the process.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the situation now, and I think it’s going to be a long time before we’re in that situation,” he continued. While some platform suppliers offer the ability to use advanced audience data for targeting in TV, “as far as I know, there isn’t a solution that would let me go into, for example, my DSP, point and click to develop a schedule using TV inventory, and execute that at scale.” Lacking such an automated self-service solution, he said he most often relies on the agency’s relationship with NBC Media Partners to reach out to networks or suppliers.

Lowenthal also cited lack of scale as an impediment. “When we’ve looked at buying programmatic television — inventory typically supplied through the cable and broadcast networks — the issue is getting the inventory that we need at sufficient scale, with as much transparency as possible,” he said. “We’re not seeing that. I think that the networks in particular are being motivated by fear and pricing protection. Eventually, I think the technology will be so easy on both the supply and demand sides that they’ll be persuaded to make more inventory available.”

From The Supply Side
Suppliers on the panel disputed that there’s a lack of inventory or automation. “We and others in the space have a ton of inventory available,” said Chris Raleigh, chief commercial officer for Placemedia. Placemedia has “an awful lot of national distribution from top networks,” but the challenge is that advertiser budgets for PTV aren’t large enough, he argued.

Raleigh also said that one impediment is buyers trying to use programmatic TV as a “[cost] efficiency play on the primary age/gender demographics,” rather than focusing on using advanced data to realize the targeting efficiencies that will pay off for marketers. And the biggest impediment of all, he maintained, is “lack of attribution” in linear TV, with the exception of addressable.

Kyle Fohlin, director of business development, publishing and media, Epsilon Data Solutions, agreed with the need to focus on strategic targeting. “Getting beyond [standard] demographics is going to make campaigns better,” he said. “Once people test this and succeed, more marketers will flood in.”

Hamid Qayyum, SVP sales-TV activation for 4C, said that while the company is known as a provider of social and other data analytics, it is also a cross-platform DSP provider, and it is very much “automating this process” to provide a central place to get access to PTV inventory — including, through a partnership, the inventory aggregated by WideOrbit. “Six of the top seven trading desks use our product to buy social media, and they’re very excited about the opportunity to buy local [TV] off that same platform,” he added.

WideOrbit CEO Eric Mathewson also objected to the perception of limited PTV inventory, noting that a majority of U.S. TV stations, and a third of the cable networks, are on his company’s traffic platform, and both are “slowly but surely bringing their inventory live on our programmatic platform.” He said the latter platform currently reaches about 85% of the U.S., or about 26 out of the top 50 DMAs.

He also asserted that WideOrbit is “fully automated from front end to the back end," taking a swipe at competitors by adding: “We believe most programmatic solutions out there today are largely manual, with a very light technological front end.”

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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 3, 2016 at 3:08 p.m.

    One of the most common attributes of "programmatic" buying for TV---that's "linear TV" --is the theory that the use of "advanced data" to ompimize targeting compared to the admittedly primitive boxcar TV buying demos, mainly adults, men or women aged 18-49 or 25-54 constitutes a vast improvement. What isn't realized is that the TV buying demos are not meant to be refined targeting metrics at all. Rather, they are the all-important basis for audience guarantees that protect the buyers' fannies. If finer demographics, like age within education,  were utilized, and sellers were willing to guarantee audience on such metrics, targeting would be substantially improved. But the sellers aren't willing to cooperate.

    It's all very well to ingore the sellers' justified concerns and needs and postulate all sorts of "big data" machinations that we are told will substantially improve TV targeting efficiencies if only the sellers can be brought to heel, but if one scrutinizes the underpinnings of the proposed "new" targeting systems, they are in for a surprise. Since these "big data" systems are based on household set usage, not viewing, they present a very distorted and misleading picture, making their application, via indexing, to Nielsen's people ratings highly suspect. In short, much bigger samples, providing misleading data, is not the great improvement over old fashioned "demo" buying that its advocates claim.

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